How To Start A Business: The Ultimate Guide For Masochists and Eternal Optimists

How to start a business

So you’re thinking of starting a business? Truly, what an original and unique idea that no one has ever had before! I mean, who wouldn’t want to give up predictable income, job security, and weekends? The allure of the entrepreneurial life calls to us all: working 24/7 while explaining to your grandma that no, you’re not “unemployed, you just started a tech company in your basement.”

Well, don’t you worry your ambitious little heart out. Here’s your very pragmatic, hands-on, slightly cynical roadmap to Business Stardom™, where dreams and reality collide, then fight to the death.

Step 1: Come Up With an Idea (Or Steal One, We Don’t Judge)

I know what you’re thinking: “An idea? Oh man, why didn’t I think of that?” Ideas are everywhere, just floating around in that little soup we call a brain. Your goal is to find the least ridiculous one and run with it. And remember, it doesn’t have to be original. You can just take an existing idea and add blockchain to it. People love that.

Step 2: The Business Plan — A Work of Fiction

Ah, the business plan, a fantastical novella where you’re always profitable and somehow, for some reason, people are clamoring to buy whatever it is you’re selling. You’ll probably never look at it again, but banks and investors will want it. So, whip out those Excel sheets and start punching in numbers like you actually know what’s going to happen in 5 years. Bestseller material, here you come!

Step 3: Become Best Friends With Bureaucracy

You know how everyone just adores paperwork? Well, you’re in luck! Starting a business is a Kafkaesque dream. Federal EIN numbers, state filings, city permits, oh my! But worry not, after you’ve filled out the 312th form, it starts to become a type of meditative practice, like yoga but for your signature hand cramps.

Step 4: Say Goodbye to Money

That wad of cash you’ve been saving for a rainy day? Make it rain on your new business venture. Think of it as a high-risk, high-reward bet. Except the house always wins. And the house is actually your business. Which is losing money. Until it isn’t (hopefully). Otherwise, you’re going to have to keep throwing money at it like you’re trying to feed a very hungry and finicky goat.

Step 5: Build a Team of Willing Accomplices

They say you shouldn’t go into business with friends or family, but those people probably don’t have friends with useful skills like coding or graphic design. Convince them to join your doomed — I mean, promising — venture. If they hesitate, remind them that Steve Jobs and Wozniak were friends, and look how that turned out. (Do not remind them that they are not Steve Jobs or Wozniak.)

Step 6: Choose a Location

This one’s easy. Just find a place that’s convenient, affordable, and perfect for your business. Which is exactly like saying, find a unicorn. Seriously though, if you’re just starting out, your basement will work. Alternatively, try the hipster route and go for a co-working space where the WiFi is almost as strong as the cold brew.

Step 7: The Logo — Where Mediocrity Meets Clipart

Now, branding. The essence of modern capitalism distilled into a shape and a couple of colors. Do yourself a favor and either pay a designer or learn enough about design to be dangerous. If neither is an option, just go for something abstract and say it represents the “soul” of the company. That usually shuts people up.

Step 8: Market Research — Or, Stalking with Style

Once you have a logo and a vague idea of what you’re doing, it’s time to find out if anyone other than your mom and your overly supportive friend Dave would buy your product. This typically involves surveys, focus groups, or casually spying on your competition. You can also just ask people on the internet. They always have opinions they’re willing to share. Often in all caps.

Step 9: Legal Stuff, AKA “Cover Your Assets”

Remember, you could be just one misplaced comma away from total ruin. So hire a lawyer, or at the very least, get some good templates for your contracts and agreements. Consider it like buying insurance, but instead of insuring your car or your house, you’re insuring against your own ignorance.

Step 10: Marketing — The Fine Art of Self-Delusion

You’ve got to convince people not just to part with their hard-earned money, but to feel GOOD about it. You need a website that’s snazzy yet functional, social media accounts that are active but not annoying, and an email newsletter that’s informative but not spammy. It’s a balancing act, like juggling flaming chainsaws while riding a unicycle on a tightrope over a pit of hungry alligators. What could go wrong?

Step 11: Sales — The Moment of Truth

Here we are, the culmination of your life’s work: convincing someone else to believe in your dream (or at least your semi-functional prototype). Whether you go the eCommerce route or set up a lemonade stand in your front yard, remember this golden rule: The customer is always right, even when they are clearly, undeniably wrong.

Step 12: The “Pivot” — Admitting You Were Wrong, But Like, Strategically

Ah, the pivot. It’s like breaking up but saying, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Maybe your original idea was terrible. That’s OK. Keep what works, toss what doesn’t, and rebrand it as a “strategic shift in focus.” Investors eat that up, and your team will be just relieved enough not to mutiny.

Step 13: Scale, Or “How to Turn a Small Problem into a Big Problem”

Got your small team and a steady trickle of income? Great! Now you just need to turn that trickle into a torrent and your small team into an overworked, underpaid army. This is where the real fun begins because the problems you ignored when you were small will now multiply exponentially. But hey, more money, more problems, right?

Step 14: Exit Strategy, Because Even Good Things Must End

Whether you’re planning to sell out or go public, you should always have an exit strategy. Even if that strategy is just selling your office furniture and valuable domain name, make sure you know when and how to call it quits. Because there’s no shame in failure; the real shame is in not knowing when to stop.

There you have it, kids: your no-frills, no-nonsense, no-guarantees guide to starting a business. Now go forth and entrepreneurize. Just remember, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Or something like that. It’s all in the business plan you’ll never read again anyway.